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Opinion

The Rafa Benitez factor, with a little help from Matt Ritchie, difference between success and failure

4 years ago
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Even when it isn’t quite happening for Matt Ritchie, he always deserve his place on the pitch.

This was the case on Saturday, as Crystal Palace did a very good job for most of the game, cutting off Newcastle’s usual main supply line down the right – Ritchie and Yedlin never really getting going.

However, Matt Ritchie never stops working and along with many others, played his part in keeping the game goalless as Palace threatened, particularly in the first half.

The visitors having plenty of the ball but rarely getting near the 18 yard box, never mind the goal, as the United defence and midfield worked their socks off.

Then came the moment, Matt Ritchie delivering a corner from the right and Mikel Merino guiding it into the net, not that he knew a great deal about it!

Imagine that, scoring a goal from a corner in the Premier League.

Crazy to look back at all those years under Alan Pardew where we were led to believe that this was some impossible task, quite ridiculous when it is something that can be simply worked and worked on in training to get results.

Step forward Rafa Benitez, plenty of goals from set-pieces last season in the Championship, and now three from corners already in the nine games played.

Matt Ritchie has now made 49 league starts (plus two as sub) for Newcastle and has been involved in 23 goals now – 12 goals for himself and 11 assists, more or less a goal/assist every other game.

When you really look at his influence though this season, particularly with corners, it becomes even more apparent how vital he has been.

Ritchie’s corner assist produced the goal to beat Palace, the same when Lascelles scored the only goal at Swansea, then same again when getting the winner against Stoke.

Those six extra points have put Newcastle into seventh spot, whereas without them it would be a case of down amongst the strugglers – the clubs 15th to 18th all having eight points at the moment.

It is testament to the work Rafa Benitez has done on the training pitch and the players buying into his methods/thinking, these set-pieces have truly proved the difference between success and failure so far this season and to deny that this is down to Rafa would be plain stupidity.

Most assists in Premier League this (2017/18) season so far:

6 Kevin de Bruyne (Man City)

5 David Silva (Man City)

5 Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Man Utd)

4 Matt Ritchie (Newcastle United)

4 Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

4 Pascal Gross (Brighton)

4 Leroy Sane (Man City)

4 Kieran Trippier (Tottenham)

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